The five districts around the city of Nguidjilone, with its 400,000 inhabitants, are located in the extreme northeast of Senegal on the border river with Mauritania. Every second young person and every second woman is unemployed here. Very few see any chance of economic development, which is why many are turning their backs on their homeland. Yet agriculture, forestry and fishing certainly offer opportunities for economic activity. But in order to exploit this potential, people need not only know-how but also access to energy for pumps, mills, peeling machines and cooling systems. Far away from power grids, solar solutions are ideal for this, because solar energy is abundant in northeastern Senegal.
The non-profit, non-governmental organization SEM Fund wants to counteract the rural exodus and enable, in particular, young people and women to start their own businesses along agricultural value chains with the help of renewable energies. SEM Fund is targeting 18 women’s groups as well as 18 youth associations living in the city of Nguidjilone and its surroundings. A total of 360 people are expected to benefit directly from the project, and indirectly their families.
SEM Fund has been committed to helping people living in poverty since 2009. The non-profit organization aims to eliminate energy poverty by overcoming the technical, financial and political obstacles with the help of innovative solutions. To do this, SEM Fund supports the creation of microenterprises and promotes access to renewable energy. SEM Fund also uses inclusive financing models such as pay-as-you-go (PAYG) and ensures that people can obtain microloans or use earmarked funds. In the project, SEM Fund works with the ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE), which, like GIZ, also serves as a technical and financial partner.
SEM Fund follows a two-pronged strategy. First, it imparts entrepreneurial, technical, and agricultural know-how to the 180 women and 180 youth. With technical guidance, two persons from each group draw up their own business plans and attend various workshops to improve their skills. These include practical seminars on the cultivation and processing of various agricultural products, as well as technical maintenance courses in administrative and financial management. SEM Fund also aims to network participants with suppliers, traders and other stakeholders. Acting as multipliers, the participants then share their knowledge with their peers, so that it ultimately reaches all 360 women and youth.
Secondly, the project enables the groups to purchase solar-powered equipment such as pumps, cooling devices or mills for their entrepreneurial activities as well as solar kits for private use. The project finances 50% of the investment costs. A local microfinance institution offers a supplier credit of 40% and the beneficiaries make a down payment of 10%. Thus, they can pay the 90% of the equipment cost in instalments over 18 months. The repayment of the 50% that are pre-financed by the project is used to offer other beneficiaries the same set-up.